There are several steps leading up to our bimah, making it impossible for it to be handicap accessible without a ramp. Due to several problems with the portable ramp that we have, we are looking into purchasing a portable lectern/Torah Table for the center aisle at the bottom of the steps. This will allow people that are physically challenged to participate in the service and to accept a Torah aliyah. Barbara 1000+ Families
On the evening before the Shabbat service at which my daughter celebrated becoming a Bat Mitzvah, we discovered that my father (whose mobility is impacted by a muscle disease) was unable to ascend the bimah by the steps in the front or by the ramp on the side (just too steep). At the last moment we had to change the "choreography" of passing the Torah from generation to generation, by doing this on "floor" level rather than up in front of the ark. We also moved the aliyot and the reading of the Torah to the "floor" level table. This meant that all the participants in the Torah service were more crowded together, and that my daughter had to deal with a hand-held mike (as opposed to the microphone mounted on the Rabbi's lectern). The result? We heard over and over again how intimate and meaningful the service was, especially the Torah reading. Beth 650 Families
Our congregation broadcasts on the local radio station: live broadcasts of High Holy Day services and a pre-recorded abbreviated service on Shabbat morning (rebroadcast on Sunday morning too.) Donations are received to support the programs from listeners as well as members of our congregation. We get a lot of positive feedback from those who are confined to home or nursing home temporarily and for the long term.
Another program that we run provides the cost of a taxi to and from services to senior citizens or those who due to health cannot drive themselves. It, too, is supported by one generous individual.
Alane 825 members
I know of a congregation that does a weekly radio broadcast of their Friday night service, as well as the High Holy Days. It is very widely listened to and the shul has a "radio membership" which is nice for homebound elderly or infirm listeners, who can feel that they have an involvement with the synagogue by way of the program. They can also send in names for Kaddish and Mi Shebeirach. When I was there, services went on the air at 8 PM and off at 9, so sometimes it was a pinch to squeeze everything in there, between sermons, anthems, guest speakers and long Kaddish lists, but we managed pretty well most of the time.
It was very gratifying to know that we were reaching so many people who would otherwise be unable to worship with a wider community on Shabbat. I heard from many others, Jews and non-Jews alike, who listened in because they simply enjoyed the program.
While our congregation doesn't do it regularly, every so often, one of our members will videotape a Shabbat service and take it to a local nursing home or senior citizens complex for the residents to view. Certainly it doesn't take the place of an onsite experience, but it does bring at least a taste of the experience to those who cannot join us. If a "generic" (i.e. one without a specific Torah portion) service is taped, it can be used for many weeks in a row. Carol 50 members
June 2007 Digest 103
We have used a telephone hook up for shut-ins so that when services are going on they could listen and hear the rabbi's sermon, etc.
Another thing we have done--which is a change in our physical plant--because we cannot put in a ramp or handicapped elevator (space constrictions since we are located in the inner city--no parking lot, area to grow, etc.) we have put in closed circuit TV from the sanctuary down to our social hall. In this way, someone who cannot make the steep steps from the social hall to the sanctuary or even from the outside steps into the sanctuary can still participate--with someone from the congregation assigned to assist where needed. This also gives us the ability of creating videos or DVDs when requested, without having the cumbersome photographer get in the way.